Album Review: Peter Baumann ‘Machines of Desire’

Peter Baumann reportedly met with his old Tangerine Dream bandmate Edgar Froese in January 2015, to discuss a reformation of sorts. Sadly, Froese’s demise some weeks later put paid to any such plans, but the rekindled desire of Baumann’s to return to music has resulted in ‘Machines of Desire’.

As Baumann himself puts it: The title, Machines of Desire, reflects my belief that as human beings we’re driven relentlessly by our deepest desires: the desire to experience life and love, to be heard and seen, to connect with others, to be safe, to find meaning and purpose… and countless more. We find ourselves in the drama of everyday life with uncertainty at every step, with fear of loss and existential loneliness, and only occasionally interrupted by the fundamental joy of being alive.”

‘The Blue Dream’ kicks things off, setting an ominous tone. A droning synth, ethereal synthetic voices and reverb-drenched toms suddenly usher in a brief Bach-like organ motif, then return to the spooky atmospherics, before terminating in a synthy stomp down the same cavernous tunnel. ‘Searching in Vain’ starts in a similar manner but we’re soon on more familiar ground with a hypnotic Tangerine Dream pulse and motorik sequencers, firmly in ‘Stratosfear’ territory. It’s one of the many sounds that defined them, all of which Baumann had a hand in until his first departure in 1973.

Things continue in the same vein, and it starts to become apparent that no big tunes are part of the template, more a series of mood pieces or tone poems, albeit mythic ones. Not that Tangerine Dream and its constituent parts ever hankered after being Black Lace. ‘Ordinary Wonder’ has a cinematic edge (TD’s vast canon of soundtracks abet this; images of lone desert motorcyclists in shades can’t help but intrude in the mind).

The Middle-Eastern feel of ‘Crossing the Abyss’ conjures up more visions, and ‘Dancing in the Dark’ couldn’t be any further from its Springsteen namesake, being a downtempo pulsing widescreen voyage through decimated landscapes.

The album closes with ‘Dust to Dust’, awash with Gregorian chants, arpeggios and soul-searching synth solos. Fans of Tangerine Dream will find things to love in this album, but may come away with their appetite only partially sated. Though if you like your music monolithic and epic, it’s well worth investigating, and the return of one of electronic music’s elder statesmen can only be applauded and revered.

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